Updated on 09.17.14

9 Tactics for Making Healthy, Easy, and Cheap Meals

Trent Hamm

I enjoy preparing complex dishes, but many evenings, the focus around our house is getting a tasty and healthy (and inexpensive) meal on the table quickly. We have a three year old and a one year old at our house, so our goal is to established a fixed meal time, put something on the table that will meet all their nutritional needs and still be pleasing to their (and our) palate, do it quickly, and do it inexpensively. This fills all of our bellies with some good fuel, keeps money in our pocket, and also gives us plenty of family time in the evenings.

So, how do we pull this off night after night without regularly resorting to prepackaged food bought with coupons? Over the years, we’ve developed several tactics for making this work – and it works so well that we often prepare the same things for guests when they come to visit.

Here are nine tactics we turn to time and time again.

1. Make your main dish as simple as possible.
A chicken breast. A fish fillet. A basic hamburger. Eggs. A very simple stir fry. A pot roast. Pasta with tomato sauce. These are the things that make up our main course most nights. Nothing complicated at all – just a very basic food.

There are some big advantages here, though:

There are a wide variety of such basic items. Our meals are far more varied than you might think. We rarely repeat out foods for weeks at a time.

These items are stunningly simple in their basic preparation. Once you’ve grilled a chicken breast a few times, it becomes incredibly routine. You don’t have to focus on it any more. Instead, you can focus on the little details (below) that transform it from boring to amazing.

These items are inexpensive when bought in bulk and frozen. We look for versions of these items that meet our quality standards on sale, and when we find them, we stock up big time. Then we just unthaw them by setting the items in the refrigerator the night before – they’re ready to go at meal time the next day.

2. Use simple tactics to add variety and flavor to the main dish.
In other words, be creative and liberal in your seasoning of the food and do it well in advance so it can soak into the food. Most of the time, we’ll actually season the food in the morning (see the next tip) so that it’s ready to go when we walk in the door in the evening.

Even better, because the main entrees are often such a blank slate, we can create a huge variety of very different flavored dishes starting with the same simple main course.

Here are a few ideas for the most common items.

Chicken breasts We just put chicken breasts in a Rubbermaid container in the morning along with whatever seasonings sound interesting. Want lemon chicken? Dump in some lemon juice, some pepper, and a few lemon slices. Italian? Put in half a cup of red wine vinegar, a third of a cup of olive oil, and a lot of seasoning (a bit of lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano, red pepper, black pepper, parsley flakes, and anything else you like). There are infinite possibilities here – just play around.

Hamburger Just mash up hamburger meat with whatever flavorings you like: barbecue sauce, blue cheese salad dressing, ranch salad dressing, Italian salad dressing, black pepper, red pepper, paprika, salt, celery seed, brown sugar, ketchup, onion, dill, caraway, turmeric, scallions, ginger, dill, cumin, coriander, bay leaves – just try different things and find out what you like. I like to let the hamburger soak in this for several hours in the refrigerator before making the patties, though.

Fish fillets Much like the chicken breasts, just toss the fillets in a Rubbermaid container along with some seasonings. Italian dressing is one place to start, as are citrus fruits and pepper. I like using Parmesan cheese and olive oil, for one, with a healthy dose of pepper. The key is to just try different things and let these things sit together for a long time to meld their flavors.

3. Do as much as you can in the morning before you leave.
One big advantage of preparing the entrees in the above fashion is that much of the work can be done in the morning before you leave. For similar reasons, we also enjoy using our slow cooker – we can just toss things together in the morning and be ready to go when we get home.

I find that doing as much of the meal preparation as I can in the mornings while the kids are eating breakfast at the kitchen counter is a great way for me to get going with something productive in the morning while carrying on conversation with them and making sure they’re eating their breakfast.

Here are a few tactics for getting things done in advance in the morning (and the night before):

Main entrees Marinate and/or spice them and put them in a Rubbermaid container in the refrigerator for the day.

Homemade pizza This is one of our family’s favorite foods. One great way to make it easier at night is to make the dough the night before, let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, then spread it out on the pan the next morning. Preheat the oven to 425 in the morning, then bake the crust for seven minutes or so. After that, you can go ahead and put any toppings on you want (like the sauce) or you can just stick the crust in the oven. Doing this “pre-bake” makes for a superb crust … actually, a “homemade pizza” guide might make for a great post.

Crock pot meals If you can possibly make a meal in the crock pot, do so – it’s such a huge time saver on busy evenings and the meals turn out quite well if you use quality ingredients to begin with. For us, it’s very simple – we have a lot of great five ingredient crock pot meals that we love making.

4. Use flash frozen vegetables (but not fruit) as a side dish.
For a long time, I was very insistent on eating fresh vegetables as a side dish. This is a good tactic to use during the summer months when you can get ultra-fresh produce from the farmer’s market or from your own garden, but during the winter, “fresh” produce often isn’t very fresh.

The solution I’ve discovered – for vegetables at least – is frozen vegetables. While not quite as good as truly fresh vegetables, they’re quite often tastier than the vegetables you find in the fresh food aisle during the winter months.

Frozen vegetables are easy to prepare – they can very easily be steamed and this can be done in the microwave if you want (some even come with the capacity to steam in the bag). Flash frozen vegetables are also pretty inexpensive, especially if you wait for a sale and stock up – we often get bags for $0.75 or less, which provide a large portion of vegetables for all four of us. Even better, they’re easy to spice up a bit – just add a bit of pepper (or a bit of another appropriate spice or two) as soon as they’re done steaming (or even during steaming) and you’ll wind up with a tasty result.

A big tip: check the ingredients before you buy. If you see any ingredients besides just the vegetables in the bag (or perhaps a few basic spices), don’t buy it. Avoid any that have high fructose corn syrup – there’s no reason to have that in your vegetables. In fact, this is why I avoid most frozen fruits – they seem to often have sugar or corn syrup added for no real reason other than to add a cloying sweetness.

5. Utilize the simple main dish in a second dish later in the week.
Let’s say we’re making chicken breasts for the family. We unthaw twice as many as we would eat and season half of them as we desire. Then, we bake all of them in the oven (not adding any cooking time at all), then put aside the cooked breast for a couple of days to use in another dish, like chicken stir fry or a chicken pot pie.

Let’s say we’re having hamburgers. We cook up a batch that’s seasoned and an unseasoned batch, then we crumble up the unseasoned burgers and use the meat as pizza topping a few days later, allowing us to have homemade pizza with a hamburger topping without using a skillet to brown the meat.

Using these kinds of techniques adds virtually no time to the meal preparation at hand, but it certainly saves time with a meal later in the week.

6. Drink water, but make it lively!
Water is the default beverage at our dinner table. It’s essentially free and provides necessary hydration. Yet, for many, it’s boring – it doesn’t provide the flavor of other beverages you might consume with dinner.

There are several subtle things you can do to make water more interesting, though. The biggest one is citrus – a slice of a citrus fruit (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) and/or a dash of a citrus juice into your water can make a big difference. This pairs very well with white meats of all kinds.

A simple herbal tea is another great beverage to accompany a meal. Simply heat up the water, steep it with the tea, and you’ve transformed the water into something compelling.

Even the simple touch of adding ice to water can make it seem a lot more refreshing and enjoyable as a partner drink to your dinner.

7. Use a simple formula for casseroles of all kinds.
Complete!We picked up this useful tactic from Amy Dacyczyn’s excellent Complete Tightwad Gazette. She offers a framework recipe for a basic casserole:

1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1-2 cups starchy ingredient
1 1/2 cups binder
1/4 cup “goodie”

Main ingredient: tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood, etc.
Second ingredient: thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, etc.
Starchy ingredient: thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice, etc.
Binder: cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup, etc.
“Goodie”: pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts, etc.
Topping: cheese, bread crumbs, etc.

This formula works really easy for turning almost anything you have on hand into a very tasty casserole. You simply just mix together these items in a casserole dish, toss it in the oven, and bake it until it’s done. One tip – one good binder is leftover chicken stock with a bit of corn starch in it.

8. Clean out your cupboards and/or pantry.
Another great way to line up some inexpensive and simple meal ideas is to simply clean out your cupboards and pantry. This is a great weekend project, actually – it helps you discover lots of items that you have on hand that you may have forgotten about and also helps you organize things in a way that makes it easier to find the things you need.

When you’re discovering these useful items that have disappeared in the back of the cupboard, plan around them, right then. Jot down ideas for meals that revolve around these items, then when you put things back, keep those items near the front so you can find them quickly.

The end result? You’ll be making interesting meals without the need for a grocery store run and the items will be easy to grab quickly as they’ll be at the front of the cupboard.

9. Do a dinner exchange with your neighbors.
Even after all this, there are some nights where you’d just like a home-cooked meal on your table with no fuss at all. One very creative way to do this is to do a dinner exchange with a neighbor.

It’s pretty easy. Find a neighbor that has a similar-sized family to you. Then arrange it so that once a week or once a month, you make a double portion of your evening meal, place half of it into containers, then take it to that neighbor’s house. All they have to do is meet you at the door, take the containers, and serve – it’s like free delivery.

Then, that family does the same for you, perhaps even with the same containers. They make a double batch of their dinner meal, then bring you containers with enough of that meal to feed your family. Easy as pie.

While this doesn’t particularly save you any money, it does save you quite a bit of time.

Good luck preparing a tasty, healthy, and inexpensive meal tonight for you and your family!

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  1. My simple, healthy, cheap meal tip: stop eating meat. :)

  2. Michele says:

    Great ideas. Don’t forget to do some vegetarian meals a couple days a week (I do them everyday since I’m a vegetarian). Also, Trader Joe’s and other healthy food stores have frozen fruit without extra ingredients. And their frozen veggies are great.

  3. I like idea #8. I have so much stuff in my pantry that I really need to just concentrate on whittling down the excess. I am sure that we would be able to survive for several weeks on just what is in the pantry.

    I also utilize slow cooking… this allows me to just throw something in the pot and off to work I go. So easy… and there are always leftovers to freeze for another day.

  4. Johanna says:

    I cook with only myself to please, so much of what I do may not be applicable to families, but for what it’s worth:

    On #4, frozen fruits with no added sweeteners are available at the stores where I shop, so they’re out there. Or you can freeze your own: I buy up lots of blueberries, cherries, and strawberries in the summer, freeze them in old quart-size yogurt containers, and enjoy their summery goodness throughout the winter.

    On #5, you could also get over whatever issues you may have about having the same thing for dinner more than once in a week. Me, I have no problem cooking up a big batch of something and then eating it every day for lunch *and* dinner until it’s gone – as long as (1) it’s a balanced meal in itself and (2) it’s good.

    On #6, I find that the more water you drink, the less you expect your beverages to be lively. Or you could make a very simple iced herbal tea by filling up a big bottle with water, adding a tea bag or two (depending on how big your bottle is and how strong you want your tea), and sticking it in the fridge for an hour or two. This works for nearly all types of tea, regardless of whether the package says it “brews in your fridge” or not.

  5. KJ says:

    Our home-made last-minute bread superstar is the “beer bread.” We make a beer pizza crust if we haven’t planned ahead and have recently made absolutely delicious panbread! No rising time required!

  6. My tactic is to make a meal out of one dish.

    -Spaghetti with lots of veggies in the sauce.
    -Mixed Veggie Stir Fry
    -16 Bean Soup

    Things like this allow me to make something simple, and make a lot of it. I can take leftovers to work and eat off of them at home for many nights after.

  7. Sarah Eliza says:

    I used the casserole recipe formula not too long ago with leftovers from a curry meatloaf… turned out great, and I just kind of tossed it together! Thanks for the tips… hopefully they can be an impetus to dig out my slow cooker again… :P

  8. Joanna says:

    Great post, Trent! Please do include the homemade pizza primer. I’m still stuck on the Pillsbury pizza dough, but I’d like to do something more healthy (maybe even whole wheat). One note, I often find frozen fruits without added sugar. I do the same thing you suggested for the veggies; just look at the ingredients list & make sure it’s only fruit. I find them fantastic for smoothies (no ice needed) and also great if I want berries in my oatmeal in the winter. The fresh berries available in winter often look just awful.

  9. teri says:

    definitely avoid high fructose corn syrup, but don’t be surprised to see sugar in frozen fruit. You have to pack many fruits in a sugar syrup in order to freeze them safely. (says a woman who freezes her own fruit in summer to use year round–there’s substantial sugar involved for preservation purposes–otherwise it would be all brown and mushy when you took it out of the freezer.)

  10. Agatha says:

    I also would like to see a post about this homemade pizza. I also prepare the dough the night before and let it rise in the fridge, but I never thought about pre-baking in the morning, that sounds interesting! And please, LOTS of pictures hehehe…

  11. Suzanne says:

    Fantastic ideas!

  12. Jules says:

    About the water: one of the easiest ways to make water so much more is to crush a few mint leaves into a pitcher of water and then let it chill in the fridge during the day. If you’re especially fastidious, you can strain it before serving.

    This is basically how companies like MetroMint make their delicious mint waters–that they charge $2 for (and it’s a rather small bottle, at that!).

    There are lots of different mints, but spearmint gives the best “chill”.

  13. CPA Kevin says:

    Great ideas – we have the same problem on nights both of us work. Trying to make a healthy but yummy dinner for us and our son.

  14. Gabriel says:

    Yummy! I’ve had great success using canned sardines as the basis for fish patties. Mix it with some eggs and a little bit of whole wheat flour and seasonings, drop it in some hot canola oil, and hey presto! Delicious and and healthy fried fish chock full of omega-3s.

  15. wanzman says:

    Actually, Jim over at bargaineering had a post on his blog 2 days ago on the topic of homemmade pizza. It’s a good read with some good comments.


  16. Suzanne says:

    For Italian chicken breast: italian dressing also makes a great marinade if you donl’t have time to mix one yourself.

  17. Robin Crickman says:

    My husband is not a casserole lover but I have
    had success with one recipe, a chicken and biscuit
    item. Take some baked chicken and chop into bite
    size pieces, add a package of frozen mixed vegetables (or whatever leftover vegies are in
    the fridge) and a can of cream of mushroom soup.
    Put in a baking dish and put on top a biscuit mixture made from one cup of biscuit mix (e.g. Bisquik), one-half cup milk and a beaten egg.
    Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

    I also want to read the homemade pizza discussion.
    My pizza takes over an hour to prepare and I get
    tired just getting it ready.

  18. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    On the vegetable front, shop at farmer’s markets for locally grown fruits and vegetables. Not only are you likely to save money, you save on the high shipping energy costs of buying stuff from your local grocer.

  19. Cathy says:

    There’s nothing more economical than a chicken in a pot and rice!

  20. Brian H. says:

    I subscribe to this website via RSS, and although I glance at it everyday, this has got to be the best post I’ve read so far! Especially, since I’ve been trying to cook more at home instead of getting take out, for both financial and health reasons. Thanks Trent!

  21. valletta says:

    My husband and I own a restaurant (he’s the chef)
    A couple of things:
    – try to prep once (called “mise en place”); chop carrots, onions and celery into fine dice, keep in fridge for a week. This is the basis of all sauces, coups, most recipes (called “mirepoix”) Takes about 10 minutes total with a food processor, maybe 15 with a knife.
    – learn to make a basic white sauce and roux; no more need for canned soups like celery, mushroom etc. that have lots of additives and no flavor. Cheaper and better tasting. (Basically flour and butter + additions)
    – roast everything! vegetables, meats and fish all taste fantastic roasted due to caramelization, they look better too!
    – use the best ingredients you can afford, you will use less and be more satisfied. Doesn’t have to mean expensive. Buy locally, grow your own, buy fresh.
    – we don’t have kids but if we did I’d give them cooking chores!
    Someday you may have a chef in the family who does all your cooking :)

  22. DollarDream$ says:

    I like # 9 and I would take it to the next step, insteading of just exchanging dinner, why not have dinner together? Pot-luck.

    We do weekly or monthly pot-lucks with 4-5 famalies, where everybody cooks a dish together and we meet at one place to eat it together. Cheap way to socialize and make good, close friends.

  23. Gwen says:

    Synonyms for tasty:

    appetizing, delectable, delish, divine, flavorful, flavorsome, flavory, full-flavored, good-tasting, heavenly, luscious, mellow, palatable, piquant, pungent, sapid, savory, scrumptious, spicy, sugar-coated, sweetened, tasteful, toothsome, toothy, yummy, zestful

  24. Elisabeth says:

    Another great addition to water is a slice of cucumber!

  25. Kaitlin says:

    Great article! I also like #8. During the last month of my school term, I usually look at my pantry/fridge to see what ingredients I have to eat before the school year is done. I find that my grocery bill is usually the cheapest during these months because I am forced to be more creative. I’m also a fan of making large portions at one time and freezing them individually for later (i.e. the times I would usually resort to buying fast food).

  26. CCTer says:

    thank you for writing this post. you must have read my mind because I’ve been struggling with this issue lately. going to grad school and very demanding job doesn’t help my motivation to cook. can u please write a post about the secrets to keeping up on the lunches? that’s a tough one too. thanks for all you do.

  27. Dawn says:

    I love these ideas, even though we have no children at home anymore. I’d also be really interested in a homemade pizza article!

    Your articles are great, Trent, and they always make me think and I truly appreciate what you do. But just one tiny thing — you don’t “unthaw” frozen food, you “thaw” it. To “unthaw” it would be to, well, freeze it.

  28. Amanda says:

    Trent, try IQF fruits (Individually Quick Frozen) — it’s something like that, sorry I just woke up! But, it will definitely note “IQF” on the package & it doesn’t have any added sugar. I think you can find these in some national brand frozen fruits, but I know for sure that you find them in organic brands like Cascadian Farms.

  29. Sonya says:

    Picky Iowan: #5 “unthaw” actually means to freeze. Love reading your posts!

  30. Jen says:

    This is the definition of “unthaw” that I found on dictionary.com:

    become or cause to become soft or liquid; “The sun melted the ice”; “the ice thawed”; “the ice cream melted”; “The heat melted the wax”; “The giant iceberg dissolved over the years during the global warming phase”; “dethaw the meat” [syn: dissolve]

    Related Words for : unthaw
    dethaw, dissolve, melt, thaw, unfreeze

  31. Margaret says:

    Casserole question: is it possible to adjust the liquid so that you can throw in noodles or rice uncooked?

    Water: drinking out of a water bottle is also a lot more fun. Using a swirly straw is always a hit.

  32. Lynne says:

    KJ, how do you make your beer bread pizza dough? That sounds delicious! I usually just use a bread dough without the sugar, but extra olive oil. Let the bread machine mix it up while I prepare the toppings.

    Speaking of bread doughs, I always make up 6-8 “mixes” (all of the dry ingredients excluding the yeast) at a time. It makes things a snap when making bread. I use the machine to mix, knead and for the first two rises. Then I shape the bread for the 3rd rise and bake in my oven. Much better loaf that way.

  33. Lynne says:

    The one thing I like to have in my freezer is hamburger in tomato. Take 3 lbs of hamburger and cook with a couple of onions, chopped. Spit it between 4 containers. Take 4 cans of stewed tomatoes and run them through the food processor. Split between your 4 containers. Add a can of tomato sauce to each and mix. Freeze. Now you have 4 easy meals at a moments notice. You can cook 2 cups of elbow macaroni and add to the tomato mix for a quick American goulash, a family favorite. Or you can add another tomato sauce, and a couple of cans of kidney beans, and lots of spice for chili, or just add seasonings for spaghetti. When I had to work late, this was something my kids were able to pull out and make as easily as a package of mac & cheese, but a lot healthier.

  34. Kate says:

    Cream sauces are very easy to make at home–I haven’t bought a can of condensed soup in a very long time. This is the recipe:
    Melt in heavy saucepan:
    3 T butter/margarine
    Blend in, cook and stir until bubbly:
    3 T. flour
    1/4 t. salt
    Using wire whisk, stir in 1 c. milk or stock or a combination.
    Cook just until smooth and thick. This makes about the same amount in a 10-oz. can.
    Make it cheese sauce by: adding 1/2 c. grated cheese and and 1/4 t. dry mustard.
    Mushroom sauce: saute 1/4 c. chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion before adding flour.
    Celeray sauce: Saute’ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion before adding flour.
    Chicken Sauce: use chicken broth or bouillion as half the liquid–add 1/4 t. poultry seasoning or sage, and diced cooked chicken if available.
    The recipe comes from a great cookbook–More-with-Less Cookbook: suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.

  35. Kate says:

    Cream sauces are very easy to make at home–I haven’t bought a can of condensed soup in a very long time–it is quite likely cheaper and doesn’t have all of the “junk” in canned soup. This is the recipe:
    Melt in heavy saucepan:
    3 T butter/margarine
    Blend in, cook and stir until bubbly:
    3 T. flour
    1/4 t. salt
    Using wire whisk, stir in 1 c. milk or stock or a combination.
    Cook just until smooth and thick. This makes about the same amount in a 10-oz. can of condensed soup.
    Make it cheese sauce by: adding 1/2 c. grated cheese and and 1/4 t. dry mustard.
    Mushroom sauce: saute 1/4 c. chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion before adding flour.
    Celery sauce: Saute’ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion before adding flour.
    Chicken Sauce: use chicken broth or bouillion as half the liquid–add 1/4 t. poultry seasoning or sage, and diced cooked chicken if available.
    The recipe comes from a great cookbook–More-with-Less Cookbook: suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.
    I think that it was recommended in the Tightwad Gazette, actually.

  36. Lynne says:

    Kate’s chicken cream sauce (#26) sounds like it would be great with Robin Crickman’s chicken and biscuit casserole! (#13) That’s one dish I’m definitely going to try.

  37. honestb says:

    If you check out Breadtopia (http://www.breadtopia.com/) he has an excellent homemade pizza primer which got me started making Pizzas. Now I make them every couple weeks, it’s so easy and fun.

    A couple tips I’ve figured out:
    -Roll it out with a rolling pin for a thinner, more cracker-like crust, stretch it out normally for a more bread-like crust.
    -Use fewer toppings than you think you need, at least at first
    -A stone always helps
    -Mixing some kind of cheese in with mozzarella (I like provolone, but you could use pretty much anything) helps keep the cheese from being so stretchy and stuck together it’s hard to separate pieces.

    My partner is vegetarian, which enforces frugality on us and we often make some really good, cheap, healthy meals.
    One of my favorites:

    Black Bean Burgers: Mash up cooked black beans (either soaked and cooked from dry or from a can) with some finely sliced onion, Garlic, Breadcrumbs, a bit of flour and whatever spices you like and form patties, pan-fry, and eat as a burger with spinach salad on the side. Way cheaper than commercially available Veggie-burgers and better than some.

  38. Sandy says:

    Great idea about miint water…I have mint in my garden and am always trying to think of new things to do with it!!!Thanks!
    One thing that might help in your fruit dilemma, is when July and Agust roll around, go to your lcal fruit stand or your green grocer and buy rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries…any favorite of yours. Then freeze them an stick them in the back of your freezer. Rhubarb is right now being used up, I still have a big stash of blueberries. It’s quite easy to do this…just something on a summer day to-do list!

  39. My wife is a HUGE fan of “The Tightwad Gazette” but she’s never mentioned this simple recipe for casseroles. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  40. Dave M says:

    Trent, I know you’re still learning about writing and editing (or about being edited), but I-found-this-on-the-web definitions notwithstanding, please try to stop writing “unthaw.” Just say “thaw.” “Unthaw” is like “irregardless” – non-words that needlessly negate the thing you mean. (rant over)

  41. michael bash says:

    Trent knows his stuff when he’s talking about dollars. In the kitchen it’s a different story, and he should allow for it. First it was “soup mixes”, and now he’s talking about “unthaw”. There is no such word and if there were, it would mean “freeze” in an awkward way. He means to say “thaw”, i.e. defrost. He would do much better to recommend some of the fine foodie blogs – there are 100s – and let the people who know give advice and the voice of experience. A learner is just that; it’s where I was 30 years ago. But for a learner to set himself up as an expert on cooking because he writes and opines on financial matters is a mistake.

  42. Jen says:

    Trent has never “set himself up as an expert on cooking”. Seriously people, get a life. It’s his blog. Do you know what that means? He can share his ideas about frugal cooking, and he can even use the word “unthaw” if he chooses. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. Unbelievable! Let those of us who appreciate his thoughts and ideas do so without being subjected to your ridiculous criticisms.

  43. Jen says:

    Great post Trent! I really enjoy your food and cooking posts. I know many others have indicated the same with their comments. I hope you will listen to the majority of your readers, and continue with this topic.

  44. LC says:

    Never mind just cooking family meals. Have a dinner party, and skip the expensive restaurant when a special occasion call for it.

  45. Jason says:

    I’ve been cooking very simple meals for dinner for quite some time now, and I completely know where you’re coming from! Not only do they save time, they save money and are quite good for you. There’s usually less clean up too, which really makes the whole dinner process more enjoyable, because you don’t have to look forward to doing loads of dishes afterward!

  46. loriseba says:

    I live in Italy so for us pizza is a weekly must. I usually make double amount of the dough, let it rise and then put half of it in the freezer for the next time. It also comes handy if I’m out of bread because I just toss it in the oven and make some buns… Trent, don’t worry about those rude comments, I’m a Hungarian-Italian living in Italy and I read you everyday, so you have an international “audience”.. keep up the good work, grazie, ciao.

  47. Kate says:

    Maybe in Trent’s neck of the woods, “unthaw” is a perfectly acceptable word. Keep the food posts coming, Trent–I enjoy them.

  48. Linda says:

    I really wish the grammar and spelling police would spend some time at ICanHasCheezburger.com and see how much fun poor grammar and misspelled words can be. After a while you realize what an insufferable snotwipe you are and are shamed that you had nothing more to offer than finding fault with others’ efforts.

  49. Tyler K says:

    When ever I need to clean out my cupboard I go to http://www.supercook.com I can enter the stuff have on hand and it comes up with recipes that include those ingredients.

  50. Frugal Liz says:

    I love homemade pizza! I would definitely like that “beer bread” pizza crust recipe too. Nothing tastes better with pizza than beer.:P One of my favorite frugal side dishes is baked acorn squash with maple syrup and butter. I tell my kids they’re having dessert! I’m a member of a csa, so they bring me a lot of squash pretty much all year. Last summer they broght so much zuchinni I had to make zuchinni bread and freeze it. They also broght me two 25 pound watermelons.

  51. Kate says:

    more on marinating chicken in Italian dressing: If you roll the marinated chicken in Italian breadcrumbs and then bake until done, it is oh so good. Works very well with chicken thighs which are often on sale.

  52. Ilah says:

    A couple of easy casseroles that are surprisingly good. My granddaughters inhale both-
    HAMBURGER STEW–Brown 1# hamburger, add 1 can chicken noodle soup and 1 can water, and about 6 potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) and sliced in about 1/4″ slices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

    Brown 1 pkg Li’l Sizzlers and cut into small pieces. Add 6 potatoes cubed into pieces about 1/2″x1/2″, pour a can of golden mushroom soup over the two stir all together and bake at 350 for about an hour until the potatoes are tender.

    Both are inexpensive and very filling.

  53. Ilah says:

    Another easy casserole from my 4-H days

    Brown 1/2# bacon and crumble. Add 1 can pork and beans and 1 can corn or 1 cup frozen corn. Heat through until warm.

  54. Lynnika says:

    I found a super-simple crockpot *fish* recipe (only 90 minutes)–it’s cooking right now & smells great! Recipe at:


  55. Great tips!

    We always do simple “Three Point” meals as I call them. A meat, a starch (a rice, potato, or pasta), and a veggie. The kids never complain.

  56. Ram says:

    about #6 water: another kind we sometimes do, is to boil (optional) 3 or 4 cups of water with a teaspoon of Cumin Seeds in it, cool and drink. Cumin seeds in water act as a digestive element and good for health; and also gives a great flavor.

  57. Ram says:

    #9: we also find potluck dinners working well – 3 of our friends (and their family) meet once in a week or two for vedic chanting and we take turns for location; though we prepare about the same amount of food, when we all get-together, it would be enough for everyone in the group. Our “eat outside” budget (per month) has gone down from $40 to $10.

  58. Karen says:

    Love the post Trent. I am also tired of the grammar whiners. Would love to see the beer pizza dough recipe and also some slow cooker recipes. I got one for my BF for Christmas and we haven’t used it yet!!! Since St. Pat’s day is around the corner maybe can do some corned beef in it along with cabbage and carrots – yummy.

  59. Mike says:

    I lol’d when I read “unthaw”, because my Mother-in-law says the same thing. I point it out to her every time that Unthaw is the opposite of thaw.

    We’re not grammar Nazis, we’re just pointing out an error, not a big deal. It makes reading easier if there’s proper grammar, punctuation, etc.

    without gramer an punktuashun an with speling erorz it maks it look liek a child or teenagr wrot it write lol wuldnt u agree?

  60. Mike says:

    Linda, Post #48, your post doesn’t make sense.

    It appears that you hate the grammar police, and how they pick any tiny mistake apart and that they are ‘insufferable snotwipes” (how mature of you!).

    But you contradicted yourself and gave credit to this police by saying “see how much fun poor grammar and misspelled words can be”. That’s EXACTLY the point. Poor grammar and/or lots and lots of mistakes makes reading something difficult.

    Seems to me the points of how ‘unthaw’ really means the opposite of ‘thaw’ were just trying to inform him of the mistake and not trying to tie him up and burn at the stake over one typo.

    Grow up.

  61. Cathy says:

    Great post, Trent. I just started a “Recession Recipes” series on my CalorieCrunch.blogspot.com blog. I’m trying to focus on economical, low cooking skill recipes. My first one is up – Chicken in a Pot with Rice. I also like to stretch out a single meal with leftovers into many different meals over the course of a week.

  62. Corey says:

    I would greatly enjoy a homemade pizza post!

  63. jeffrey says:

    Ground Turkey is $1.19 a pound at Aldi grocery store. Recipes for ground turkey can be found at

  64. KeptWench says:

    Trent, you rock. ignore the whiners, the net’s full of them. :-p

    Combine the pizza idea with the neighbors idea. Win on both. :)

  65. Greg says:

    We’re pretty bad about #8. We buy food and eat a portion, but leave the rest sitting in the container. Great point about making sure to use that up.

  66. Melissa says:

    Nice article, great reading! I really enjoyed it and would love to share it. Do you allow pingbacks?


  67. Melissa says:

    I also get the Meijer ad out every thursday for the following week. Helps save money so you know what to buy this week and what to wait for, next week


    I have found it helpful in saving money in groceries.

  68. My husband makes a wonderful homemade pizza dough that’s quick and easy (important now that we have a baby). It’s a beer-based dough, and the recipe can be found here: http://everything2.com/node/1709502


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